The ‘Black Babies’ in Congo Brazzaville: how about approaching the issue differently?

28 décembre 2021

Central Africa, like the entire continent, is a young sub-region where the median age does not exceed 18 years. This Central African youth, rather than being a handicap, should represent an opportunity for sustainable development. The United Nations Security Council resolution 2250 (2015) considers that “young people should take an active part in building lasting peace and work towards justice and reconciliation, and that the demographic size of today's youth is an asset that can contribute to lasting peace and economic prosperity...”. Unfortunately, young people in Africa's major urban areas serve as targets/breeding grounds to promote and incite violent extremism, which sometimes leads to increased conflict and the exacerbation of juvenile delinquency in cities and regions. They thus feed the already existing insecurity and slow down the socio-economic development of the affected countries.

Among these new emerging forms of juvenile delinquency, the phenomenon of the "black babies", which has appeared in Brazzaville in recent years, has become a clear scourge in the Republic of Congo.  The 'Black babies’ are generally young people between the ages of 13 and 25, most often idle and out of school, armed with knives looting, committing rape, murder and assaults on the population. The violence and abuses committed by these “black babies” provoke various reactions from the population. In some neighbourhoods, people have formed self-defence militias and other initiatives through neighbourhood associations. The Congolese authorities are regularly being accused by various observers of remaining passive in the face of the violence of this phenomenon. Several diagnoses and scientific studies have been carried out previously by different local actors and have led to the formulation of various approaches for the control and eradication of this phenomenon. However, these initiatives have not been able to develop integrated monitoring mechanisms or a strategy that is truly adapted to the challenges of this new form of delinquency.

What if we approached this problem differently? 

And referred to historical facts, to find the source of this scourge in order to identify the real causes behind the phenomenon of the “black babies”.   To date, only corrective approaches have been applied to deal with and address juvenile delinquency and urban security issues, but no preventive approach to trace the root causes of this phenomenon seems to have been truly considered.

Perhaps effective preventive solutions already implemented should be explored?

Today, the realization of an exploratory survey would represent a solution more than necessary to curb this haemorrhage at its source. This approach could be based on the analysis of the socio-economic profiles of the households and/or families of origin of these young perpetrators of violence to understand the causes contributing to the exacerbation of this phenomenon and its spread throughout the city of Brazzaville and all the major cities of the Congo. In addition, this type of survey would aim to promote stable social cohesion and create an environment conducive to the involvement of all actors involved in prevention and responses to insecurity relating to this urban youth scourge.. This project would promote an innovative holistic model that would address the institutional, community and individual levels to mobilize and empower institutions, structures, communities and individuals to promote sustainable solidarity solutions. It would also involve making a diagnosis of the key stakeholders involved in this challenge, analyzing their operational capacities, and assessing the roles of the different institutions and communities, their knowledge, attitudes and practices towards the violence perpetrated by these young offenders, in order to consider strengthening their capacities in connection with the resolution of this phenomenon. 

What can we do now?

In addition to all the activities and initiatives to continuously update and inform on the extent of violence, juvenile delinquency and insecurity caused by this phenomenon of the ‘Black Babies', the next step will be the formalization of an inter-actor partnership, in particular those engaged in youth-related issues. The primary objective of this partnership will be to draw lessons from previous experiences in combating this form of juvenile delinquency and to draw inspiration from good social and educational practices applied, both at the national and international level, in favour of young people in order to prevent their entry into delinquency. It will then be necessary to provide further contextual information to harmonize the understanding of the feasibility of the problem and agree on the essential points of the strategy to be developed to facilitate the achievement of the expected results.

This problem is not insoluble.

By Arold Akpwabot, Exploration Analyst; Accelerator Lab- UNDP Congo